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by Scholten A

Definition

A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) infection is a serious infection. The infection happens in the bloodstream. It affects those with a central line catheter. A PICC is a long tube inserted through a vein in the arm. It is commonly called a PICC line. It is used to give medicine, nutrition, IV fluids, and chemotherapy.

Veins in the Arm
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A PICC infection can lead to sepsis. Sepsis is a life-threatening condition.

Causes

A PICC infection is caused by bacteria on a central line catheter. From the catheter, they can get into the bloodstream. This can happen from bacteria that normally live on the skin.

Risk Factors

Things that raise the risk of PICC infection are:

  • Severe illness
  • A weak immune system
  • An infection elsewhere in the body or skin
  • Long time use of a catheter (more than 48 hours)
  • Problems with the catheter
  • A catheter that is not coated with an anti-germ substance

Symptoms

Symptoms of a PICC infection may include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fast heart rate
  • Redness, swelling, or tenderness at the catheter site
  • Drainage from the catheter site

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done.

Tests will be done to diagnose the infection. They may include:

Treatment

The goal is to clear the infection. This involves:

  • Antibiotics—medicines to treat the infection
  • Central line care—often, removing the PICC line and replacing it with a new one

Prevention

Proper catheter care and cleaning can help reduce the risk of a PICC infection.

RESOURCES

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  https://www.cdc.gov 

Society of Critical Care Medicine  http://www.sccm.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Health Canada  https://www.canada.ca 

Canadian Patient Safety Institute  http://www.patientsafetyinstitute.ca 

References

Central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/HAI/bsi/bsi.html . Accessed March 2, 2018.

Central venous catheter. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/procedure/central-venous-catheter. Accessed September 14, 2021.

Central venous catheter. American Thoracic Society website. Available at: https://www.thoracic.org/patients/patient-resources/resources/central-venous-catheter.pdf. Accessed September 14, 2021.

Saugel B, Scheeren TWL, et al. Ultrasound-guided central venous catheter placement: a structured review and recommendations for clinical practice. Crit Care. 2017;21(1):225.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Nicole Meregian, PA
  • Review Date: 07/2021
  • Update Date: 09/14/2021